The Dozenth Flight

I’m not going up to Vandenberg for the Formosat launch, but I’ll probably go to the beach (I’m assuming the marine layer will clear by then). I’d like to see SpaceX get to twenty flights this year, but I’d like even more to see them finally launch the heavy.

[Update a while later]

This is interesting, if true: Space will lose millions on this mission. Of course, it would have probably cost them a lot more to continue with the Falcon 1e. This is also the first time I’ve ever seen the marginal launch costs stated, at $37M. Also interesting, if correct.

13 thoughts on “The Dozenth Flight”

  1. So to break even the recovered vehicle must be worth $14m over other costs. I think they’re good.

  2. It is kinda lame that SpaceX basically left that small launcher market.
    Of all the projects I’ve seen so far the Electron is the one that sounds the closest to availability assuming Rocket Lab can get it to work.

    1. It makes no economic sense for SpaceX to operate the F1 when they have the F9, but it might make sense for another company to license it?

      The problem with that is they may not want transfer of trade secrets?

  3. What is the story of this core? Has it already been used? Is it a block 4?

    They might not be testing return to launch but they could be testing other things for the block 5.

    The article said to ignore reuse but if the staged is reused, or has already been used, then the costs are amortized so the loss isn’t really that big a deal.

    Still interesting to see the $37m number.

    1. (From NSF’s manifest thread.) This was the first flight of core #38. #39 was used on the CRS-12 launch, and #40 will be used for the X-37B launch next month (currently scheduled for 9/7). The next reuse is expected to be the following launch (currently scheduled for 9/30), probably with core #31, which was first flown for the CRS-10 launch in February.

      I don’t know how much of the B4 upgrades, if any, were in this core. I have heard that it is very much not a clean step from B3 to B4 (and then B5), but that individual features of the B4 upgrade are brought in one (or a few) at a time, so that there are many transition flight between the blocks.

      The cost numbers in that article confuse me. Of the $37 million direct launch cost, it says that $26 million are for the booster and $6 million for the fairing (wow — that’s more that I would have expected). So that only leaves $5 million for both the upper stage and the operation costs. Does that sound right?

      1. I was surprised by that fairing number, too, but it explains why Elon wants to recover it if possible (haven’t heard if they were successful today, but if so, it will be a first). Operations costs aren’t included, because those are fixed and amortized over the number of flights. That number is almost certainly just hardware. If the nine-stage booster is $26M, $5M doesn’t seem unreasonable for the upper stage (which has its own avionics). If they can get ten uses out of a booster, and recover fairings, it implies a marginal cost per flight of less than $10M, much less than a thousand bucks a pound.

      2. The numbers are a real treat. Maybe Dick Eagleson will take a stab at them in comparison to the last time he did so.

  4. Given the low mass of the payload this launch could have been a good chance to try out upper stage recovery.

  5. Maybe this flight was too soon for them to try as they are probably still working out how to do it, but if the have future launches with such light payloads could be an option.

    Also, can someone explain to me how a fairing costs more than the upper stages tanks, avionics and engine combined?

  6. I didn’t follow this one too closely. With all the extra performance available in the upper stage because of the small sat, did they attempt any kind of upper stage recovery? Not necessarily hardware mods, but steering, boostback etc.? Elon alluded to it on Twitter a while ago.

    1. …and I’m an idiot because I totally missed Andy’s comment and Rand’s reply…mea culpa.

Comments are closed.